Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Media and Communication


Research Seminar by Mirca Madianu, Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, London University.

You are invited to attend this event in the School of Media and Communication Research Seminar Series, to be delivered by Mirca Madianu. The seminar will be held in Lecture Theatre, Room G12, Clothworkers’ Building North.

‘Humanitarian Technologies’? Second order disasters and social media in the Typhoon Haiyan recovery.

The 2013 World Disasters Report uses the term ‘humanitarian technology’ to refer to the empowering nature of communication technologies for disaster-affected communities ‘to coordinate and respond to their own problems’ which can potentially correct some of the power asymmetries of humanitarianism. In my talk I investigate these claims drawing on a year-long ethnography of two island communities in the Philippines as they recover from Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded, with over 6000 casualties and over 12 million people displaced, triggering a massive humanitarian response. Drawing on participant observation, digital ethnography and 140 interviews with affected people and representatives from humanitarian organisations and government officials our research observes a disconnect between assumptions about technology present in humanitarian policies and the actual uses of technology by affected populations. Recovery-related uses of social media such as crowdsourcing, fundraising, community mobilising and protesting are largely socially stratified mapping onto existing social inequalities.  Whilst some of our already better off participants have access to a rich media landscape which they are able to navigate often reaping significant benefits, low income participants are trapped in a delayed recovery with diminished social media opportunities. The fact that some participants are using social media to recover at a rapid pace while others are languishing behind represents a deepening of social inequalities. In this sense digital inequality can amplify social inequalities leading to a potential ‘second order disaster’. This refers to humanly perpetuated disasters that can even surpass the effects of the original calamity.

Mirca co-convenes the MA Media and Communications and the core MA course Introduction to Media and Cultural Theory (both with Professor Lisa Blackman).  She also teaches on the course Gender, Affect and the Body.


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